Prepare the Way

Peter.1A Sinful Man #1 

A study in Jesus dealings with Simon, brother of Andrew, who became the Apostle Peter.

John the Baptist, a descendant of Aaron, was a maverick among Priests. He spent his time in the wilderness instead of the polished halls of the Jerusalem temple. He spurned the traditional priestly garments to wear camel’s hair. Before he was conceived his father, Zebedee, had messed up his once in a lifetime opportunity to burn incense and pray the Messiah would come. Everything was fine until he stayed too long in the temple and then exited a mute unable to fulfill his duty to bless the people. He offered a surreal explanation. He had been praying for the Messiah to come when an angel appeared declaring his prayer had been heard. His wife would give birth to a son who would prepare the way for the Messiah. Zachariah did not believe the angel. The angel responded by taking away his ability to spew his unbelief. A disgruntled high priest, without doubt offended by this country bumpkin from the hills of Judea who disrupted the service, permitted Zachariah to complete his duties. Zachariah returned home but the discussion of what really happened to him in the temple continued.

One day, just as the angel had said, Zachariah’s barren wife announced she was pregnant. About six months into Elizabeth’s pregnancy cousin Mary arrived. Elizabeth and Mary were filled with the Holy Ghost and prophesied. Elizabeth assured Mary there would be a performance of the things the Lord told her. The Lord had told Mary she would give birth to the Messiah. Mary responded by praising God for remembering his promise to Abraham.

Three months later, John was born. His parents traveled to the Jerusalem temple to circumcise him. A dispute about the child’s name arose. Zachariah settled the dispute when he wrote on a tablet “His name is John”. That act of obedience released his tongue. Zachariah who had not spoken a word for months suddenly prophesied that the oath God swore to Abraham will be fulfilled.

Mary returned home full of information she did not know what to do with and hid everything in her heart. She became pregnant just as the angel told her and gave birth to Jesus, the Messiah. The night of his birth astonished shepherds arrived talking about angels singing praise to God. Their arrival offered more confirmation that she had given birth to the Messiah.

According to their laws and customs, Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple to be circumcised. In the temple more prophesying takes place about their son’s destiny not by the religious leaders but devout believers. They remained in Jerusalem for more than a year. Nothing happen. No one arrived to crown their son king. They waited until Jesus was a toddler and some wise men from the east arrived looking for the King of the Jews. The wise men had learned from a trouble government and city that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Then a star led them to Jesus’ home. The only people to treat Jesus like a king were foreigners. The Magi worshiped the toddler, gave him expensive gifts and departed.

Mary and Joseph remained in Bethlehem until an angel announced their government wanted to kill Jesus. At the angels instruction they fled to Egypt. After Herod died, the angel told them it was safe to return, but not to Jerusalem to assume King David’s throne. They returned to Nazareth and settled into the normal routines of life wondering when their son would become king. Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zachariah, Simon and Anna knew Jesus was the long awaited Messiah, but the government wanted the child dead and the religious leaders are oblivious that the one they worship with such zeal had arrived.

Aside from an incident when twelve year old Jesus astonished religious leaders with his understanding and then wondered why his parents did not know he must be about his father’s business…nothing. Jesus grew up to become not a king or even religious leader but a humble carpenter.

The heavens were silent until Jesus’ cousin John began preaching, “Repent the Kingdom of Heaven is near” stirring up memories of prophecies, dreams and promises that lay dormant in curious hearts for three decades. Most of the people who knew and believed the Messiah had arrived were elderly and may have been dead by the time John started his ministry. Mary’s husband, Joseph, is never mentioned again suggesting he had died. That left Mary and a large number of people who may or may not have believed, but knew what happened at the birth of John and Jesus. At minimum that group included:

  1. The people who Zechariah was unable to bless when he exited the temple. He was still able to write on a tablet and without doubt relayed the dramatic message that their prayer for the Messiah to come had been heard.
  2. Zechariah and Elizabeth’s family and neighbors. Elizabeth’s pregnancy would have been widely discussed because she had passed the age of childbearing.
  3. Mary and Joseph’s extended family and neighbors. Her pregnancy was a family scandal that shamed Joseph and her family. Mary’s “apparent” delusion that God had impregnated her would have been whispered about for years. Jesus would have been aware of his “apparent” legitimate status in the family.
  4. An unspecified number of shepherds, who angels visited with the message the Messiah had been born and everyone the shepherds told.
  5. Everyone in the temple who heard Simon praise God for showing him the Messiah.
  6. Anna, the first female evangelist, was well known in the temple. She publically gave thanks to God and spoke about Jesus to the multitudes looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
  7. The Magi, King Herod and all Jerusalem. King Herod believed the Messiah had been born and sought to kill him resulting in the slaughter of every male two years of age and younger in Bethlehem. Everyone who worked in government and everyone in Bethlehem and Jerusalem knew what Herod did and why.

The people of Judah were brutally oppressed by Rome. Their religious leaders had lost touch with the God they worshiped. The hope that the Messiah had finally arrived kept the stories of angelic sightings, the angels’ message and the strange circumstances that surrounded the birth of two boys alive. When John began his ministry priests and Levites were sent from Jerusalem to ask him if he was the Christ. When he replied, “I am not the Christ,” they went down the list. Are you Elijah? Are you the prophet Moses said would come? No and no. The frustrated priest exclaimed, my paraphrase, “Who are you? We need to bring an answer back to the temple.”

John pointed them to the writings of Isaiah.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3, NKJ [1]  

The common knowledge that the Messiah had been born and subsequent investigation by the temple into the ministry of John the Baptist stirred up a man named Andrew, brother of Simon. The Bible does not tell us why Andrew and Simon were in Judea. We only know that Andrew decided to investigate the strange ministry of John the Baptist. At some point, Andrew accepted John’s message, repented and was baptized in water.

There is no indication in the Bible that his brother Simon responded to John the Baptist message. His later declaration to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man” indicates he had not responded to John’s ministry. Ultimately, Andrew’s decision to follow John the Baptist prepared the way for a sinful man to accept Christ as the Son of God and become the Apostle Peter.

[1] All Scripture in this serises NIV unless otherwise noted.

About Teena Myers

Teena is the Vice Chairman of the Southern Christian Writers Guild, author of three books and a freelance writer.
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